Fate of frozen food may depend on moisture management

by Jeff Gelski
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Frozen food aisle
To get frozen food sales gushing, manufacturers may need to contain moisture in their products more effectively.

KANSAS CITY— To get frozen food sales gushing, manufacturers may need to contain moisture in their products more effectively. Failing to do so might lead to problems appearing in such forms as tough texture, reduced shelf life and moisture migration into the crust.

The frozen foods category as a whole could use a spark. U.S. retail sales of frozen pizza reached $4,474,711,040 in the 52-week period ended Aug. 7, up 1.3% from the previous 52-week period, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. Over the same time period, sales were $4,228,246,272, up 0.9%, for single-serve frozen dinners/entrees. Sales dropped for frozen handheld entries (non-breakfast), down 0.4% to $2,441,434,112, and multi-serve frozen dinners/entrees, down 1.4% to $1,978,045,056.

To keep in product quality, manufacturers may check out several ingredient innovations.

Dennis Corbin, a food scientist who has worked for such companies as Ralston Purina, Mead Johnson and Armour, invented MicroGold. MicroGold, L.L.C., South Hutchinson, Kas., offers the MicroGold P3824 ingredient systems that may provide assistance in frozen sandwiches involving laminated dough or hamburger buns, said Bob Schrader, a research and development consultant for MicroGold.

Frozen burgers
MicroGold P3824 ingredient systems provide assistance in frozen sandwiches involving laminated dough or hamburger buns.

“They tend to be on the chewy side or tough side,” he said of the sandwiches. “They don’t do well in a microwave.”

MicroGold holds moisture to eliminate the toughening effect. The product offers cost-savings benefits by sometimes reducing the amount of dairy products and egg products needed in an application, he said.

In-store bakeries have been switching from on-site production to in-store finishing using products that have been refrigerated or frozen, according to MicroGold. This practice has brought about an increased use of par-baked, refrigerated and frozen baked food as both product components and finished products.

Mr. Schrader said moisture migration may cause problems in three instances.

Frozen yeast donuts
MicroGold holds onto the moisture in fried products, which results in less fat pick-up in such applications as yeast-raised donuts.

In fried products, the frying process tends to move moisture out of a product, which then picks up fat. MicroGold holds onto the moisture, which results in less fat pick-up in such applications as yeast-raised donuts.

In freeze-thaw products, MicroGold may keep moisture from being lost in the freeze-thaw process. Finally, moisture may migrate in microwave products, but MicroGold may inhibit the migration.

Another ingredient innovation targeting the frozen segment was introduced by Pak Group L.L.C., Pasadena, Calif. — Bellarise Semi-Dry Yeast. A proprietary freezing technology freezes the yeast and makes it dormant without killing it, said Walt Postelwait, president of Pak Group. The yeast then is stored frozen.

Other yeasts become active when they are placed into a water environment, he said. Then they are frozen again, which kills off some yeast cells and has a negative effect on shelf life.

BellaRise extra dry yeast
Bellarise Semi-Dry Yeast may extend the frozen shelf life of dough by six months to a year.

The Bellarise Semi-Dry Yeast may extend the frozen shelf life of dough by six months to a year when compared to compressed or dry yeast, according to Pak Group.

When working with Bellarise Semi-Dry Yeast, companies typically may use one-third to one-half of the normal use rate when compared to a fresh baked product from scratch dough.

“Typically for a frozen dough product, you have to up-dose your yeast two to three times the normal use rate as compared to a fresh baked product from a scratch dough,” Mr. Postelwait said. “This is because the yeast cells begin dying off right after the freezing.”

This year Pak Group launched Bellarise FTO (freezer-to-oven) Improver Plus that is designed for laminated dough.

BellaRise FTO improver
Bellarise FTO Improver Plus is designed for laminated dough.

“It gives structure to the dough so that you can bypass the proofing step,” Mr. Postelwait said, adding that such proofing steps may be challenging in supermarket and food service operations.

In-store bakeries, fast-food retailers and frozen dough manufacturers may simplify production in order to maximize efficiency, he said. Bypassing the proofing stage presents a time-saving benefit.

In the Bellarise FT Improver Plus, the enzyme technology modulates gluten bonds in the dough, which allows the dough to keep its shape and expand quickly during the bake cycle, Mr. Postelwait said.

Another frozen foods issue is damage to yeast from ice crystals when the moisture in frozen bread freezes, said Bill Gilbert, a certified master baker for Cargill. He said adding a small amount of xanthan gum, maybe less than 0.1% of the formulation, may stop the ice crystallization because the xanthan gum absorbs the water.

Fruit pie
Free water may have a negative effect on the crust and filling in fruit pies and cobblers.

In frozen fruit pies and cobblers, free water from the fruit, whether it’s fresh or individually quick frozen (I.Q.F.), may have an impact on the crust and filling, according to Advanced Food Systems, Inc., Somerset, N.J. The company offers Actogel FCS to help manage water in fruit pie fillings. The ingredient system disperses and hydrates quickly so that it may be sprinkled directly onto fresh or I.Q.F. fruit during mixing. It improves freeze/thaw stability and enhances the filling texture after baking.

While frozen food sales could be more robust, opportunity exists in the category.

MarketsandMarkets, a market research company with a U.S. office in Seattle, projects the global market for frozen bakery products, at $13 billion in 2014, to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5% from 2015-20 to reach $21.2 billion.

“The frozen bakery products market is directly influenced by the growth of frozen food products that offer convenience and save consumers time and efforts in the preparation of bakery products from the ground up,” MarketsandMarkets said.

Frozen foods aisle
Technavio predicts the global frozen food market to record a CAGR of 4% from 2015-19.

Technavio, a market research company based in London, predicts the global frozen food market to record a CAGR of 4% from 2015-19.

“The rise in disposable income and the growing desire for convenience is driving the growth of this market,” Technavio said. “Consumers prefer ready-to-eat meals that can reduce their cooking and clean-up time. Moreover, the ease of use associated with the packaging technique and the microwave cooking support for frozen food is also making frozen food a popular choice for consumers. For instance, nearly 8 out of every 10 consumers across Europe consider frozen or prepared meals an excellent option when they are too busy to cook from scratch.”
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